Together at last

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As I am writing this article the house is full of kids. My daughter has invited her cousins to a sleepover. There are happy shouts and lots of joyful noises as they play together. There is teasing, laughing and quick apologies when feelings get hurt. They will share popcorn, play board games, roll their eyes at my dad jokes and take pleasure in just being with each other. My daughter waits for these special weekends all throughout the school term and when they finally arrive, she is just about ready to burst. We have it all planned: the whole weekend’s meals are laid out, the snacks are prepared and everything is ready ahead of time so there can be maximum fun. She wants to spend as much time as possible with her cousins maximizing their connection, and getting them to sleep can be tricky as they love to stay up talking with each other.

Fundamental to the human experience is the fact that we love being around other people. Some of us more than others to be sure, but ingrained deep within all of us is a desire for human connection—to foster social interaction and relate to other people. To speak with someone else, to laugh at a shared joke, to share ideas and learn from each other, to argue and strive together, to work together to accomplish a shared goal, to make friends and to love each other. We crave it deeply. In Genesis 2:18, as God creates mankind He says it is “not good” for us to be alone.

You might think this is so basic that it doesn’t need to be stated. It’s obvious that strong social connections are a core human need. Global events, however, mean that we have all become a little more isolated. This is having a devastating effect on some of our most vulnerable. A recent study by the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine in the United States has identified isolation as a main cause of the decline and early death of many aged care residents. Being isolated has led to a faster weight loss, accelerated cognitive decline and raised depression rates. It’s not exclusive to the US, as the ABC reports one in four Australians feel lonely at least once a week—and that was before the Covid-19 pandemic. While “loneliness” on its own may not sound like a serious issue, combined with other health factors it plays a major part in the state of our mental and physical health.

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We are better when we are together

That’s the Christian worldview as well, and not just for health reasons. Genesis tells us that God and humanity used to be together and could talk face-to-face. As a result of sin there is now a distance between us and God. We are isolated from Him. Sin is like a disease that afflicts us all, and it keeps us away from God. But here’s the interesting thing. Just as we desire relationship, God does as well. He wants to be with us. He doesn’t want us to be lonely and away from Him.

When Jesus was born, the apostle John describes it this way: “The Word [referring to Jesus] became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Jesus was born in human form. This shows just how much God wanted to be with us. Jesus was born to a human mother, grew up in a family and perhaps even had sleepovers with His cousins. He was embraced by His family, made friends, did remarkable things and really lived a human life. He wanted to be with us so much that He became one of us.

As well as just a desire to be with us, Jesus came for a couple of other reasons. First, it was to remind us what God is like. In John 14, the disciple Phillip asks Jesus to show Him the Father: “Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”?’” (John 14:9). In looking at the life of Jesus, His care and compassion for the sick and needy, His heart of love, His remarkable teachings—by all these things God shows Himself to us so that we can know Him, and get to know Him better. If you have seen the life of Jesus, you have seen what God the Father is like.

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Secondly, Jesus came to fix the problem sin had caused. His death on the cross was to heal the rift between God and humanity. In the life and death of Jesus, sin was overcome and defeated. It’s a part of why Christmas and Easter are so precious to Christians—they are reminders of the first coming of Jesus to this earth. And they also point to something bigger coming down the road. Because while Jesus was on earth, He told His disciples that there was a greater togetherness coming. Once He had done what He needed to on the cross, He was going to return to God the Father. This upset His disciples who wanted Jesus to remain, but He comforted them with these words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-4).

This is the great hope of Christians: that while Jesus has left the earth for now, it’s with the promise that He goes to prepare a place for us in His Father’s house. He promises that if He goes, then He will return. Why is He doing all of this for us? Simply because God desires to be with us.

I’m sometimes bewildered by that. Why would God want to be with us so much? Why does He love us so much? Then I think about my own daughter and the overwhelming love a parent has for their children, and I understand God’s desire to be with us a little more.

So I can’t wait for that day when Jesus comes back as He has promised, and we can all go for a permanent sleepover in His Father’s house. He is preparing a place for us, getting the snacks ready, making it special, and one day He will come and we’ll all be together again. See you there!

Justin Bone supports and trains pastors and congregations around Victoria for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He’s passionate about helping people understand the Bible better.

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